Happy customers will do more to help your business grow than anything else you can do. When it comes to advertising and marketing, a lot of businesses seem to forget this fact, focusing their attention on placing a few advertisements and waiting for new customers to come along as opposed to focusing energy and resources on making sure the customer they have a happy with what they are doing.
There is an old adage that every unhappy customer will tell ten of their friends and associates negative things about your business. If you do the sums, the effect that unhappy customers can have on your business is frightening. Of course, the best way to avoid this terrible anti-advertising is to have happy customers. Sounds pretty simple right? Then why do so many businesses get it so terribly wrong?
In a nutshell, you need to stay in touch with your customers. As your business grows, your attention is often drawn away from the day-to-day activities and often you spend less time with your customers and more time working on behind-the-scenes operational responsibilities. I believe that this is a dangerous time for any business, because it's the time when you can lose touch with what your customers want.
I have seen this happen a number of times. In fact, I think that it has happened to most large organizations. The management are so removed from the actual customers that decisions are made on totally false assumptions of perceived customer satisfaction.
I recently watched a television show that featured the head of the entire British prison system spending a week actually working in a number of prisons throughout England. This was a very senior man who was responsible for an annual budget of hundreds of millions of pounds and employed thousands of people. He wanted to get a feel for the job, so he worked in the prison kitchens, with the warders, in the hospitals and in the prison administrations.
Of course, customer satisfaction isn't a prime objective in most prisons, but a real concern was to reduce staff complaints and sick days caused by stress. Following his week spent seeing at first hand how the prison system that he was responsible for actually worked, a number of changes were implemented that solved a lot of problems and resulted in much higher levels of employee satisfaction (and, in some cases, prisoner satisfaction).
The same principle can be applied to any business. I would love to see the head of any major bank in the world have to stand in a queue for an hour during their lunch break because the ATM machine ate their card. Or put the CEO of one of the leading telecommunications companies on hold for 45 minutes and see how they like it.
Don't lose touch with the people that make your business what it is. It's never too late to take the time to talk to your customers and find out their thoughts on how your business is performing.